What’s Up? Talks With Indie Pop Band, The Weepies
Jun 18, 2015 11:06AM ● Published by Melissa Lauren
The Weepies Steve and Deb Tannen pictured above. Photo Credit: Robert Sebree
WU? Congratulations on your new album, Sirens.
WU? I see that it debuted on the Top 20 Digital Album Chart. Charting is always exciting but when did you feel like you had first won and really landed as a band coming up?
Deb I think that first year when our music started to be used for other people’s creative projects. There was something about that that was so validating and exciting and fun and helped us get to a point where our career was more viable as another life. Both of us had been playing music for many years at that point and it was around the time our record came out on Nettwerk, Say I Am You.
WU? So I know you all were solo artists before you joined together. Musicianship is a combination of innate talent and learned skill but for some, performing takes work. What advice would you give a young band about performing for their audience?
Deb I respect people who create a real show out of what they do. I think we’re more of the organic sort of show out of the feel and environment created by the songs that we’re playing. For up and coming bands – just find out what your thing is. There’s such an interesting thread of what people want to do live. For this tour Steve and I brought parts of our living room with us, you know – that’s kinda like our aesthetic, which is a little less show and a little more living room. But we also brought a band of incredible musicians; Pete Thomas from Elvis Costello & The Attractions and then Meg Toohey and Johnny Flower who we’ve worked with for years who add so much dimensionality to the songs and create something really special with us on stage.
WU? That’s cool. And you’re music always feels like you’re coming home. It’s really charming and it feels like you create that environment in your music. I think that it’s interesting that you created an aesthetic visually that is a good match with your sound.
Deb Well, thanks. That’s sweet of you to say. And I think there is a connection there. It’s not just about making us feel comfortable on stage. Although, that’s part of it (laughing). It’s about creating an environment.
WU? As you have received more publicity over the years, do you feel more pressure when you perform as a result or do you just let it happen organically and let the music do the work?
Deb I think there’s the same level of general performance anxiety. The more we do it, the more it sort of fades away and it’s more about creating something on stage. It always takes a little while to get the rough out, though.
WU? You’re both married with children. Do your kids ever tour on the road with you when they’re out of school and are they musical too?
Deb They are on the road with us and yeah, they are musical too. Nobody’s got formal training of anything yet but they’re all really interested and attentive to the music.
WU? Deb, I’m glad to know you beat stage 3 cancer last Summer. Do you want to share any part of that experience with What’s Up? Readers?
Deb Ask for help a lot. That’s what we did and it ended up being the one positive thing we took out of the experience.
WU? And as a music buff, did you find yourself gravitating towards certain musicians and listening to their albums as a comfort during that time as music therapy?
Deb I think if we hadn’t been right in the middle of working on our album, I would have. But as it was, you know, our sort of recording project – finishing that was a big part of what we were also doing while I was healing up and getting cured from cancer. In that phase there is listening to other people for inspiration but mostly listening to what we’re working on as we’re trying to get things done.
WU? Do you recall which musicians you may have listened to at that time?
Deb M.I.A. was a big one. She had a new album Matangi out then that’s really awesome. Ricky Lee Jones always! Who else?
Deb Adele! Yeah, that’s true. And then we have our sort of standby’s that are always comforting like, Van Morrison.
WU? Yeah, Van Morrison is a good one.
WU? I just want to say, I don’t need to give you permission not to answer any questions but, of course feel free, if I get too personal, you don’t have to feel obliged to answer.
WU? What else helped you throughout your treatment process?
Deb Marijuana. I had some heavy duty drugs from the hospital too and I used those as well but I found that there was still a huge level of general bone pain and nausea that didn’t go away. I lost my appetite entirely and when I tried pot it was sort of this revelation. You know, instant taking all the edges off and I could actually eat something about an hour after. I think it’s very strange that people aren’t crowing this from the rooftops. There’s such a weird stigma and shame around using marijuana at all. Somehow, you’re weak or something but it’s this great resource. That [marijuana] was really helpful.
WU? I’m glad that offered relief and it’s much less addicting than some of the pain medication that is prescription these days. I agree with you about the stigma. It seems kind of backwards.
WU? How did you handle explaining all of that to your kids when you went through that treatment? They are still relatively young, correct?
Deb Yeah. The only one who could really understand on a bigger level was my older boy. They both knew that I was sick and that I was getting treatment that was going to make me well but it would make me feel really lousy for a while. And that was where we kept it. We stayed on the hope side at the time. There was no dire talk. It was just – this is going to be hard and we’re going to get through it as a family.
WU? I’m glad you all came out on the other side stronger for it. You’ve both written songs as solo artists, for other artists, and your band, The Weepies. Is the writing process different depending on the scenario or do you tend to have the same approach when it comes to songwriting?
Deb I think the approach is the same
WU? Do you have a whole process nailed down?
Deb Well, it’s a little bit different every time. That’s part of what’s the same about it (laughing). I’d say there’s always some sort of instrument involved right away. Maybe when we’re writing with or for other people there’s a little bit more of exploring in their life. We start there rather than just [doing] what comes out of our own [life], which is more of a blank page start.
WU? Do you have a collection of guitars? If so, what is your favorite type of guitar?
Deb We have a bunch of different guitars (laughing) but we’re not collectors. Everything we have we use and they’re all pretty beat up. We have some Taylors that we’ve both had for almost 15 years and they are deteriorating along with us and mellowing very nicely. And a beat up Hofner that we love to write on but you could never take it on the road or record with it. It’s got this great character and kind of a rich woody sound. It’s really nice for writing on.
Steve You can’t tune it!
Deb You can’t tune it (laughing). We’ve got this Gibson B25 that we actually do take on the road. They’re wonderful.
Listen to the first single "No Trouble" from Sirens here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MsgcLM7_p5A For more information visit www.TheWeepies.com
WU? Well, your music sometimes features simple open harmonies and dense intricate harmonies and it always sounds like they’re wrapped up in a bow. When did you first harmonize together and do you remember which song you sang together?
Deb It was probably something that one or the other of us had written at the time because we started singing on each other’s songs and harmonizing right away. I would say one of Steve’s songs called, Sing Me to Sleep from his album of his called Big Senorita. That’s when we started singing together harmonizing.
WU? And did you fall in love before or after you made music together for the first time?
Deb (Laughing) Well, the actual relationship stuff came after. The music came first.
WU? And if you could wake up and play any instrument that you’d never attempted to play before and have magical powers and play it like an expert, which instrument would it be and why?
Deb For me I think it would be the cello at least right now anyway. Either that or the theremin. Yeah! The theremin! I think that would be cool! (Steve is heard piping up in the background). Let me give you to Steve for just a second.
Fun Factoid: The theremin is a musical instrument with electronic tone generation, the pitch and tone volume is controlled by the distance between the player’s hands and two metal rods serving as antennas. The theremin was one of the world’s first electronic instruments!
WU? Hi Steve! How are you?
Steve Hey, Melissa. Good! I’ve just been hanging out taking pictures for Instagram.
WU? Oh, cool.
Steve Yeah, doing interviews on the side of the road by a bus. Very cute.
WU? So when I asked the question, which instrument would you wanna wake up and play would you mind relating that to us again?
Steve Sure! I wanna be able to play the drums the way that Pete Thomas plays the drums. I wanna be able to play the bass the way Johnny Flower plays the bass. I wanna be able to play guitar the way Meg Toohey plays guitar but luckily they’re on the bus with us so they can play the way that they play.
WU? (Laughing) Well, we’re glad that you’re there too to sing the way you sing and play the way you play. And aside from music, what else are you passionate about?
Steve Oh, everything! I wish I was a scientist. I just wasn’t good enough to cut it. We studied – I mean, we literally get physics journals sent to our house because we’re passionate about it and we’re homeschooling our three kids. We see our own passions in them. It’s really easy for us to relate to a lot of the awesome stuff you find learning. Like, oh my gosh, that’s amazing! And some stuff that’s super boring is still boring to us too. You know what I mean? I was like, Wow! I’ll always be bored by that, through periods of history. Like, I’m glad I wasn’t born in London in 1704. That was boring. We do painting and art and science and math and music and literature and we’re athletic. Although, not as athletic as we used to be but the kids are picking up the slack. Now I’m a yoga nut all of the sudden, which is really sad. Because I was always against yoga. I just didn’t like it but now I love it!
WU? That’s cool! Yeah, don’t knock it ‘till you try it. Do you teach your kids about string theory or is that too advanced for them?
Steve You know, they teach us about string theory. I just think it’s a crock. Maybe it’s my math or something but I don’t think they have it right yet. I think that’s much too close to the ether theory for me. I don’t know if you’re a science girl but I don’t think they have it right yet or else it would be easier to explain.
WU? Yeah, I don’t know that we have the language yet to do the concept’s justice. I was just trying to make a bad joke about kids bouncing off the walls (As you can tell, he took the bait and ran with the joke).
Steve Sure. Yeah, I get it.
WU? I’ll spare you the rest of my bad jokes. Congratulations on being a healthy family again!
Steve Thank you.
WU? And congratulations on your fantastic record, Sirens. We look forward to your performance on Monday, June 22nd at Rams Head On Stage.
Steve Thanks for your time. It was a pleasure.
WU? Thanks! Have a good evening. Take care.
Steve You too.
- Melissa Lauren
Melissa Lauren, Community Events Editor and former WRNR FM and WTMD FM Radio DJ, writes the weekly What’s Up? Events Blog and E-Newsletter every Thursday. To subscribe visit WhatsUpMag.com. To view more events taking place this weekend, please browse our Online Calendar at whatsupmag.com/calendar. Be sure to Follow What’s Up? on Twitter and Like Us on Facebook. For coverage of your community event, please send press releases to email@example.com.